Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is taking a page out of President Trump's book. During a Thursday press conference, Trudeau addressed the SNC-Lavalin corruption scandal for the first time since his former Attorney General and Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould delivered damning testimony before a Commons committee and the public, detailing a campaign of political pressure and veiled threats over her refusal to offer a deferred prosecution agreement to a Quebec-based engineering firm.
During his press conference, Trudeau largely adhered to the version of events delivered by his former top aide Gerald Butts during a separate hearing earlier this week. The prime minister insisted that his government did nothing wrong by pushing Wilson-Raybould to seek a second opinion on the SNC-Lavalin case. Instead of trying to illegally bend the country's justice system, Trudeau said he was merely "standing up for Canadian jobs."
Trudeau feared that prosecution of SNC-Lavalin over allegations that it bribed Libyan government officials could lead to the loss of as many as 8,000 jobs in Quebec, his home province, where he is still an MP, according to the FT.
The prime minister insisted that "no inappropriate pressure" was brought to bear on Wilson-Raybould, and that he has spent his entire career "fighting for justice."
“I’ve spent my entire political career fighting for justice,” Mr Trudeau said. “Since I started in politics I’ve always worked to the best of my ability to represent people faithfully, the SNC Lavalin [file] was no exception to this rule.”
However, Trudeau acknowledged that, with the benefit of hindsight, he would have done things differently, and that "mistakes were made." He added that the only reason his office had pressed Wilson-Raybould about SNC-Lavalin was because he had heard she might be open to it.
Mr Trudeau added: "We felt Ms Wilson-Raybould was ready to consider other options, and we have learnt since she was not open to that. We have learnt since that every time we mentioned it, it was inappropriate. For me and my team to continue talking about such important issues, well, that’s part of our jobs."
Most amazingly, Trudeau said that political considerations were not part of his calculus, and that the Canadian government is duty bound to stand up for workers.
Mr Trudeau said he had felt “preoccupied” with “the number of jobs involved”, but said his concerns were "separate from any electoral concerns." He added: "I think people understand that a Canadian government always needs to stand up for workers, stand up for jobs and a strong economy, and that is something all Canadian governments do."
Since the scandal broke last month, Trudeau's Liberal Party has lost its polling lead ahead of a crucial election in October. The prime minister is also facing at least two investigations - one in the Commons and one by the Canadian government's ethics office - and his political opponents have continued to call on him to resign. Perhaps the biggest blow to public confidence in his government came earlier this week when a member of his cabinet resigned because she said she could no longer support the government in good conscience.
Though the Liberals have mostly backed Trudeau, there's little doubt that his political future has never looked so precarious.